Podcast E112 – Interview with John Hawkins

This week I talk to John Hawkins from WebDev Studios

Upcoming Events

Segment 1: In the News

Segment 2:  A talk with John Hawkins from WebDev Studios

John’s Tools

Follow John & Workout Website

Segment 3: Tool of the Week

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Adam: This is the Kitchen Sink WP Podcast Episode 112. [Opening Music]

Hello there, this is Adam Silver, the host of the Kitchen Sink WP Podcast. Thanks for being here. Let’s gets started. All right. First and foremost, upcoming events as always. Next weekend we have WordCamp San Diego and Word Camp Bratislava. San Diego is sold out but like I said people can always, some of those can't go, they sell tickets so check out Twitter or the Facebook page itself and see if, just check out social media that's what I'm trying to say. I will be there, I'm looking for the San Diego, I'm speaking actually and that's going to be awesome. I'm going to write my talk still. No, I'm kidding. I'm mostly done. I'm just tweaking some stuff here and there. I'm new to demo so my talk is fluid I like to say. Anyway, there's also WordCamp Bratislava and one last thing on upcoming events.

It's not until, when is it still actually, not until technically, yes it is actually going to be October 2016 so we got some time but what I'm talking about is Website Weekend Los Angeles. It's coding for a cause. It's being produced by a bunch of my friends, Alex Vasquez, Natalie MacLees from Girl Develop It. I think Girl Develop It is also a major sponsor or behind the scenes there. I'll put a link in the show notes. It's helping nonprofits. It's a whole weekend of doing awesome things, helping nonprofits literally so check that out in the show notes and that's not until October so I'll remind you again in a few more months. I just want to put it out there now. You can go and sign up and get more information and be on the mailing list.

All right, so WordCamp San Diego, Bratislava and Website Weekend helping nonprofits coming up in October. All right, segment 1 in the news, WordPress 4.5 was released and on time last week on Tuesday, the 12th. I've installed it on a handful of sites, it's working well. I did read and see that some people had some JavaScript issues but nothing too general. Of course, you always want to do back up and there's a link in the show notes as well for all the updates and with these features. What else? Oh, EDD-Easy Digital Downloads over by Pippin's Plugins celebrated four years this past week, the 15th and almost at the time when they posted that 1,000,000 downloads I think they have had now; so congratulations to Pippin and team and EDD. That's awesome! They have over 50,000 active installs right now but 1,000,000 downloads in four years that's amazing! If you don't know what EDD is, it's awesome. Easy Digital Download lets you have the ability to have a, lets people download digital products from you and it's free, they make their business models based on add-ons to the products itself; so check that out.

Finally in the news, I am finally off of my old hosting. I'm completely, every site now has been moved off of anything to do with the conglomerate that we don't talk about like Voldemort, I just want to share that with you; so I'm no longer with any of those. Everything's over at A2 Hosting and/or that's because actually everything, the last couple of A2 Hosting I have an account with SiteGround I used for some other testing. It's good to have two different places to test some things, so A2 is where Kitchen Sink is and everything else and I'm happy with that, so I'm fully migrated off, so thanks again to A2 for that and SiteGround and Motion Hosting also has a concierge so I split things out equally if a can with friends and companies who I trust and respect and I work with all three of those.

Moving on to segment 2 which we'll talk about in a second but first, I want to thank today's sponsor which is once again FreshBooks. I literally just finished my taxes today. Today is the 17th of April. Here in the US, taxes are due on the 15th of April typically but because it was a Friday, they give you an extra weekend so they're due tomorrow. I finished my taxes and FreshBooks helped a lot. I had a lot of reports in there that I could pull from, my expenses, my income, people who paid me online through FreshBooks, it was great; so if you're looking to try something out this new year and track time better which I'm going to be doing from now from today on now the taxes are done using FreshBooks 100% of the time and Quicken-it can import as well. If you use Quicken or QuickBooks you can actually do an export and an import so they do talk to each other so you can have an account. If you don't want to use FreshBooks for whatever reason, you can take your data and do that as well; so check out FreshBooks. There will be a link in the show notes. You get a 45 free trial and thanks to them for sponsoring today's show.

All right, moving along, segment 2. Today, I am actually interviewing, I had an interview already with John Hawkins and John's awesome. We've met in the wordPress space, we talked about that and he's such a great guy. Take a listen to him, his story, his WordPress work where he's at now, where he came from and we'll come back and wrap it up with a tip and tool of the week. Here we go.

Adam: Today, I'm talking to John Hawkins. He is a CrossFit junkie, a WordPress fanatic, Apple fanboy, a WordCamp organizer, a Podcaster and currently is a director of products at WebDev studios. Welcome to the Kitchen Sink WP Podcast Sir John.

John: Hey, thanks for having me.

Adam: Of course. Did I miss anything in that bio?

John: Nope. You pretty much nailed it.

Adam: Okay and we're done.

John: You could have probably stopped right after CrossFit junkie I guess because that's really all I do these days.

Adam: Okay, but there's a lot too. We're going to unravel that. We're going to peel back the layers of John Hawkins today. For full transparency as I always say to my show when I interview people, I like to tell people how we know each other and in this case we know each other via WordPress in the WordCamp community, the arena there but honestly, I don't know the first time I met you, honestly I don't know because I just feel like we see each other all the time, it's got to be two, three or four years now. Do have any recollection of when we met?

John: You know it's really difficult. I ran into this a lot especially with my WordPress-WordCamp friends where I've met people and I see them at so many different camps so I don't know if you notice but I use a photo you took of me as my avatar. That was taken at WordCamp Orange County two years ago I think.

Adam: Okay.

John: I'm a big fan of that photo. I'd really love to get an updated version of that actually if you could do that again if I see you in a couple of weeks that would be great, but yes, that's a really hard question because it's most likely that we met either at a WordCamp or at an after party but it could have been one of about 20 different conferences that we've been at together.

Adam: Exactly and I recall that picture I actually shot. I brought in some people who don't know, some people who do know I came in the WordPress as a photographer and I have flipped flopped through that. I do a lot more WordPress work now in consulting than I do with photography, which is fine but that was one of the last events I was actually hired to do by Chris Lema to shoot him. He needed some more images for his own marketing. Most of the images he use as a majority of them on his website I shot, you know, his profile shots, any of his marketing.

John: That's awesome. I didn't know that.

Adam: Which is pretty cool, so he knew that I did that and I was winding it down he hit me up, he's like “Would you come do this for me, I'll pay you,” I'm like “Sure.” Okay, moving along because I want to talk to you about you, so for those who don't know about who you are or what you're doing right now, I'd like to know how do people got involve these on WordPress so like Talking Heads always asked “How did I get here?” how did you get here?

John: Yes, I've been blogging for a long, long time before WordPress was actually around. I was writing blog posts and uploading. I used about every version of blogging software that was available-Phpnuke and like all of those from back in the day and I was even as hardcore as literally creating HTML documents that I was just updating manually.

Adam: Wow.

John: Yes. Bad, bad, not fun but a friend of mine Doug Dalton introduced me to WordPress. Literally, I think it was three months after the initial launch of WordPress and so I started using it at that point and then never went back obviously at this point but I got to a point where I was starting to get under the hood and messing with templates and then messing with some custom functionality for stupid things I wanted to do on my own sites and then that turned into “Hey, could you do this for me?” and so I started doing a couple of friends and family sites and that's the other and then that grew and then I had a corporate job that after I was there for a decade I kind of got disenfranchised and was not very happy whatsoever so I started a company doing WordPress development, ran that for five years, five-and-a-half years I guess, left there, went to a startup that kind of crashed and burned as some like to do and ended up at WebDev Studios, here we are today.

Adam: Perfect. That's what I thought. I did some research on you. The questions I have for you kind of relate to all these and where you're at and so looking back when we met, you were actually at 9seeds because you were one of the founders there and who was another founder there?

John: Shayne Sanderson.

Adam: Okay.

John: Shayene Sanderson and a buddy of mine Todd Huish. There's the three of us who were the original founders of that.

Adam: Okay and then you left to do the startup and that was you left a year-and-a-half ago?

John: No, that was August of last year.

Adam: Just last year.

John: Yes.

Adam: Wow, so it wasn't that long and that was the publishing thing.

John: Correct.

Adam: Okay.

John: it was called Booktrope.

Adam: Right.

John: They're actually still around and they're doing their thing and it's well and good. For me, not so much.

Adam: Right and then most recently you landed up at WebDev Studios and you are the director of products. I'm curious, I would like to know, the title is interesting to me. What is the director of products in a web development shop mean, what do you do, what's your day to day look like?

John: Here's the interesting thing. I've known Dre, I've known Brad, I've known Bryan, I've known Lisa for a long time and we've always joked that even when I was at 9seeds we joked about at being WebDev Studios West and then I would joke back that “No, no, no they were 9seeds East.”

We have always talked about the possibilities of working together and when I found out that I was going to leave the startup I'd reach out to a couple of people and Dre was one of those, Dre and Brad were a couple of those where I said that, is there something interesting that we could do because I could kind of do, I didn't want to just go get a job and so we started talking about, you know, they've been around for quite a while, they've got a lot of code, they've got a lot of plugins, they've got a lot of code that could easily be plugins and things like that and they had always kind of been interested in moving in that direction but it would have been very difficult and so when we started talking about it I said “I'm very interested in that because I love the product space and I love turning things in the products and seeing where that goes and so we talked about it a few times and then that's how we came up with this new website that when you ask what my day to day is, I run a website now called Pluginize which is a sub site off of WebDev Studios and we make and sell plugins and I'm in charge of the variety of plugins and so the things that are already there, I'm there to kind of shepherd them and clean them up and stuff that's not there yet. I'm there to help design and push out the door.

Adam: Are you actually getting on to the hood still or going back into that code base and doing actually the coding or are you managing the team who builds them or a combination of both?

John: I'm so glad you asked that question because really this is the entire reason why I chose to go to WebDev Studios because what I said was, “What you're offering me is the opportunity to be the “Director of Products” and that sounds very interesting to me if and only if you have the resources to put onto it so that I have a team who is going to do the development and it is going to be a focus team” because this is I think something that a lot of shops who do client work they run into this like “Hey, let's release a product,” and what ends up happening is you get to that point where, “Oh, I know that you were supposed to be working on that product but we've got this client thing that needs to happen. We're going to take your developer for the next three days” and I said that I wasn't interested if that was going to be the situation and we all agree that that wouldn't be it, it hasn't been so far, it's been fantastic so I have my own team, I have not seen a line of code yet.

Adam: Okay and you're okay with that. You're okay with not touching the code itself at the moment?

John: I am. I have a side project that I do kind of related to CrossFit and we could talk about that in a little bit where I do still get to dip my beak into the coding side of things so that keeps me entertained on that side but I don't have to be involved in the code. I can focus more on the external side of the products.

Adam: What about the ideas? Obviously you mentioned that it's called Pluginize. What about themes? Does Webdib have inches on that aspect or that arena because you always know there's a battle. People say themes are important. It's the UI, it's the UX, it's where the sites start versus the plugins versus the functionality.

John:We have a lot of really good front end developers at WebDev so how about if I just say “I'll never say never?”

Adam: Okay.

John: At the moment we don't have any plans for a theme. A theme is such a different animal than plugins. I'm such a huge fan of what I kind of call single function plugins. I want a simple plugin that you kind of come in and do like one thing and it does it really well. I look at themes these days especially like if you go to ThemeForest. You go to a ThemeForest theme and it's kind of competing that market place, like the top themes they all like 55 sliders and they got all these different things. It's not like, “Hey, we have a slider built in.” They've got 55 different versions of it and I pick on sliders but it's that same level with everything.


Oh, no, no. We all pick on sliders. It's not just you. It's ridiculous because those themes are just bloated. We know those themes and front of the show a friend of mine and she rips on sliders in general as well.

John: Sure of course. Obviously there's a place and a time for everything and that's all well and good and blah, blah, blah but yes, the idea of doing a theme, it would really have to kind of stem off of something that we're already doing with custom post type UI which is one of our huge plugins, 300,000 active installs currently. We've got that and then we've got CMB2, custom metabox; so those two items kind of play real nicely together so there's definitely some thought around how you can maybe build a niche theme that does one something really cool leveraging those other pieces. I think anything that we would ever do in the theme side would be something that kind of leveraged other things that we already do really well and then go and attach that.

Adam: Okay, so you actually mentioned the side project. I'm wondering it up for a second because I saw that a few months ago and I'm like “It's brilliant!” It's one of those things I'm like “Ugh!” I know you're huge on the CrossFit, I went once four years ago after watching CrossFit games in out here in Southern California. You may not know the story but I went once, I did the trial like the free day and of course they had the silver bucket there for people throwing up and I dry heaved.

John: Nice.

Adam: I'll leave it at that but I get the value of the box, I totally do. Here it's expensive in Southern California, it's not cheap. I love what yours says, it's called W.O.D.?

John: WODables.

Adam: WODables, that's right. WODables okay. I couldn't remember the exercise, so it's WODables. Tell us what is WODables and why you did it and how you implemented it?

John: Sure. Like you, I've seen, you've got the box and the box can be expensive, I get that but I love CrossFit and I wanted to do it all the time so as soon as I started getting into it the first thing I did was I went out and I bought a bar for the house and I bought plates and I bought a squat rack and I bought kettle bells, a jump rope, med balls and I have just about everything. I have a gym here at my house.

Adam: You went all in.

John: Well, have you ever met me? That's how I do everything. The idea was that some folks maybe can't always get to a box but maybe they've got a couple of pieces of equipment at home or maybe they don't. Maybe they don't have any equipment at home. There's a lot of sites online where you can have them send you like a daily workout but the problem is they send you a daily workout and it's like go rope climb or go lift the bar. What if you don't have those pieces of equipment? What I want to do is attack it a different way. You log in, you set up and account and it's free.

When you first log in and create your account I ask you what pieces of equipment do you own, so you just check off the little boxes and then if there's any movement that you're trying to avoid like maybe you've got a shoulder injury that you're nursing or something like that so you can check out any movement that you're trying to avoid and then what I do is based on that. We have a full database of like right now I think there's 750 different workouts in there; a hundred of them now are just body weight movement and so what I do is every single day based on what you've told me about what you have and what you're trying to avoid I then pick a workout out of the database and I shoot it to you as an e-mail. That's it. The whole idea is it's a tailored workout based on the equipment that you can do so everyday when you get it, it's something that you physically should be able to do.

Adam: Okay, so the question I then have for you on that is you're doing this manually? Customer by customer per se, member by member?

John: No.

Adam: It's automated. You have it automated on the backend?

John: Yes. This is actually the big whole piece of this was my entire idea behind the entire site was I wanted something that kind of ran on its own. I want it basically to be an autonomous website and as of literally, and I'm not kidding you, as of literally yesterday, I now have enough workouts in the database that if I were to never touch the site again, it would run perpetually and it would never send you the same workout within a three-month period.

Adam: Nice. Very cool. You're obviously running on WordPress.

John: Oh, absolutely.

Adam: Awesome. Okay, so I'm going to bring your background to more of development stuff.

John: Sure.

Adam: If someone came to you and said they really want to get into web development and WordPress itself, what piece of advice would you give them?

John: They want to get into web development and WordPress specifically?

Adam: Right, because they are two different things.

John: Sure. Absolutely they are.

Adam: These days, people say web development right? Because in our circle it's always WordPress but they're not. It's two separate things. They want to be web developers and they want to use WordPress, what piece of advice would you give them?

John: Find a local meet up and go. It's not enough to just find the meet up because, “Hey, there's a meet up over there” and then I don't go. That doesn't really work out all that well but going to a local meet up and meeting the folks that are there, absorbing some of that content, getting to know other people that are already doing this stuff and learning off of those people as you become part of that community; that then blossoms into the bigger thing which is what we've already talked about like a WordCamp where it's more the bigger kind of a little bit more formal learning platform. I think the community aspect of it is so very important. I think that is a number one.

Adam: Okay. Obviously it tickles me pink to hear you say that because I always mention that in the podcast, in upcoming events, if there isn't one go to meetup, if there isn't one, start one. It's an ongoing mantra.

John: Just on that basis, let me just tell you, I don't know if you know this or not, but I was the person who started the WordPress meetup here in Las Vegas and just this past year after running it for four-and-a-half years or so, I finally handed it off but this Russ Aaron is now shepherding it and he's doing a fantastic job so much so that about a week or so back, we just passed 1,000 members in our meetup group so I'm very excited about that.

Adam: The problem I have with Russ is he's just so mellow. [Laughing]

John: Yes, Russ, mellow.

Adam: We've been on the WP a couple of times together these past couple of months.

John: He's a good dude and he's very excited and he's one of those people who absolutely loves to learn. Anybody who has any faults whatsoever I will forgive them all as long as you're on the other side of that fence just willing to learn.

Adam: All right. Last couple of questions for you because I want to be respectable of your time. The amount of WordPress work out there, abundance or scarcity? Your opinion on that?

John: Absolute abundance.

Adam: Yes. From the perspective of being a director of product at a good size agency and a well respected agency, you guys aren't afraid of other agencies?

John: No. Absolutely not. One of my favorite stories is I was at a WordCamp. This is kind of early days of 9seeds and we're at WordCamp and it was then in eye's view I could see there's WebDev Studios and there's TenUp and Crowd Favorite and everybody's here and they're all in the room I could see them all and somebody came over and we're chit chatting and he says, “So, who here is your competition?” and I kind of scan the room and I said, “Well, everybody and nobody.”

Adam: Right.

John: There's literally so much work out here, we were at the point at 9seeds where we were turning away more work than we're accepting so it was great Pixel Jar as a perfect example of somebody I love. I adore Brandon and Jeff so much and what happened is people would come to us and they would say, “Hey, we've got this project for you” and we would look at it and based on our skillset, we might immediately turn around and say, “You know what, we're not the right company for you, you need to go talk to Brandon and Jeff” and it would happen in the exact same way in the opposite direction so that is abundance and

Adam: I've actually sent clients too. People call me up for projects. I know that if I don't have the time because I have three kids and I have another day job still, working on leaving that, I'd rather say no and not let drop the ball so I referred jobs to Integral WP, I tried to send some work to Pixel Jar, I recently sent somebody over to Real Big Marketing, they are friends of mine in Michigan. There's plenty of work in my opinion. People are like, “Oh my gosh, I don't want to share.” What's wrong with sharing, there's plenty of work.

John: The more you share the more it just comes right back to you tenfold.

Adam: All right. Final question and this is the one I ask with every person I interviewed. Three software tools that you can't live without?

John: Number one right now I think is Slack and I think it goes right back to the whole community side of things like the Slack WordPress channel is so brilliant, just having that instant access to everybody I think is invaluable. Tower-I use tower which is a graphic user interface for Git and you know, me and command line we're pals but we're certainly not friends. We hang out now and again but there are ones you really want to see around Thanksgiving time like once a year.

Adam: It's funny I started with Tower the trial. It ran out before I got more time in my head around it and then I e-mailed them and said, “Here, there's another two months for free” that was great and then WP-CLI came up and I started digging on that, I'm loving WP-CLI for the stuff I'm doing lately I want that speed not the Git aspect it's just me getting and doing some command lines for specific needs and then if I need to spend some more time, either a Tower or SourceTree or something but yes, Tower's great.

John: I think if I was actually doing more development on an ongoing basis like if that was kind of my core thing, digging further into WP-CLI would absolutely be something I would do but for what I do for my limited …

Adam: Needs.

John: Especially with working with my team it's just kind of pulling down latest versions of plugins like Tower is so easy to just fetch and then the other one is Sublime Text which I am such a huge fan of. It's so funny, I've gone through about every editor known to man over the years but the reason that I really, really enjoy Sublime Text and as soon as I say this, there's going to be 400 comments in the comment section and “Whoa, you could do that, well these other ones too.” I get it but Sublime just makes it super easy, the multiple cursor. Have you ever used that?

Adam: I don't think I have. I use Sublime Text often but you know what I don't know it as well as I would like to same with Tower. I know that Nathan Tyler is like a Maestro with Sublime Text.

John: After this is over, as soon as we hit the stop on record, I'm going to screen share with you real quick and I'm going to show you what multiple cursor is and it's going to change your life.

Adam: Awesome.

John: I may have oversold that one. Sorry.

Adam: All right. I want to say thanks for being here. Where can people find you and follow you on the ethers, the Twitters, etc.?

John: VegasGeek pretty much everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram-I'm a big Instagram fan and if you're in Las Vegas and want a good workout. Let me know, we'll go drop and do CrossFit box and it will be a lot of fun.

Adam: Awesome.

John: You can get a bucket.

Adam: Nice. Thank you. Are you going to be any WordCamps coming up?

John: I'm going to WordCamp San Diego next weekend. I'm very excited about that and then the only one that's on my radar after that right now is WordCamp Orange County so I'm hoping to get an updated avatar photo from you, thanks man.

Adam: I'll be in San Diego. I'll see you there and actually the week after that I'll be in Chicago.

John: Awesome.

Adam: Are you speaking in San Diego?

John: I'm not. I'll just go hang out. I love San Diego. Who doesn't love San Diego?

Adam: I went to college there, it's a great town.

John: There you go.

Adam: Thank you so much for your time. It's always a pleasure talking to you and hanging with you and I'll see you next week.

John: Ditto. Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Adam: All right. Thanks.

All right. Well, I hope you found that interesting. I did. We had a great talk. We actually talk like another hour afterwards and he showed me, he did the screen share with Sublime Text. Mind blown as far as the control, the cursor, the multiple, the split cursor that's just awesome. I was like “Wow! That's going to save so much time.” I like to do more code because of that. Thanks again to John on the show. I'll see you next week in San Diego.

Last thing here segment 3, tip and tool of the week. This week it's called hacker typer tool. You go to hackertypertool.com. It's a fun little thing that I wonder who showed me, Kyle showed me and it looks like you're trying to hack a website or a service. You start typing and you just get those green stuff like almost like a terminal command, you get to try it out and I think you hold down the shift key or control key, caps lock, now hold on where is it, I forgot which one of these, oh there it is. Option key, double tap it, it says access granted. Do it again and it goes away. It is fun. If you're at a meeting or a meetup for something and you want to look like your coding or hacking a site, try this out. It's goofy, it's silly. I just want to share with you I thought it would be fun this week-hackertyper.com. All right, that is it this week. Have a great week. Go out and do some awesome things in WordPress. If you have any questions send it in Adam@kitchensinkwp.com or use the speak pipe functionality of the website and we'll see you next week. All right. Thanks.



This weeks episode of the KitchenSinkWP Podcast is sponsored by FreshBooksfreshbooks-logo